Women from marginalised communities are more vulnerable to hate crimes

Amnesty International India
24 July 2018 6:09 pm

In a country as diverse as India, there are many ways in which we can identify ourselves. Our individual identities are made up of multiple different identities, including race, caste, religion, gender, age and economic status. While this diversity is a cause for celebration, the multiple identities that we possess can cumulatively result in multiple levels of discrimination. Which in turn, can make an individual more vulnerable to hate crimes – criminal acts that are motivated by prejudice and discrimination against an individual’s identity. 

More often than not, government statistics are guilty of either not at all recording the element of discrimination in crimes that have been committed, or only recording discrimination based on one form of the individual’s identity. For example, the discriminatory motive behind a hate crime against a woman might not only be based on her gender, but also the fact that she is a Dalit, Muslim or Adivasi. However, the basis for these discriminatory motives are rarely investigated and recorded.

Initially, this intersecting theory of discrimination was purported by scholars in the context of the discrimination faced by African-American people. However, the same theory could easily be applied in the Indian context.

For instance, it is extremely hard to forget the incident that took place in early January, where the gang-rape and murder of an eight year old girl in Kashmir was motivated by communal hatred. The child was not just targeted for her gender, but also her religious identity. A lesser-known fact is that she came from an indigenous community, which made her even more vulnerable.

Many women in the country have faced several layers of discrimination, which has been reflected in Amnesty International India’s website, ‘Halt the Hate’. In the first six months of 2018 alone, 30 incidents of alleged hate crimes have been reported where the victim is a woman from a marginalised community.

On 23 February, an 18-year-old Dalit woman while on her way to the market was doused with kerosene and set ablaze. In another reported case in February, 48-year-old Sangeeta Devi and her sister-in-law, 38-year-old Sarita Devi, went to farm a plot of land. Allegedly, upper-caste Hindu men attacked them with axes and sticks. So far, in 2018, there have also been 11 incidents of sexual violence that have been reported against Dalit women.

In most of these cases, one can see that these women have faced hate crimes not just because of their gender but also because of their caste or religion. It is important for authorities to recognise the complexity of the discriminatory motives behind these crimes, and not just record these cases as crimes against women.

We must do better for victims and survivors of hate crimes. While recording data on hate crimes, civil society organisations and authorities must ensure that hate crimes against women from marginalised communities are recorded in a disaggregated manner so that we can better recognise their increased vulnerability. Recognising this is the first step to ending impunity for such crimes.

Editor’s Note: This blog is written by Harshita Shroff who previously held an internship with Amnesty International India and contributed to the ‘Halt The Hate’ project.